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Puerto Ricans in Desperate Need of Help; President Trump's New Warning to Kim Jong-Un; Sports and Politics. The State of Europe. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:11] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.

In desperate need of help -- Puerto Ricans facing a growing humanitarian crisis.

President Trump's new warning for Kim Jong-Un -- the U.S. is totally prepared to use devastating military action against North Korea.

And "Let's get together" -- France's president lays out his vision for the E.U. calling for a new relationship with Germany.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. Newsroom L.A. starts right now.

One week after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico the island is suffering from a growing economic and humanitarian crisis. Signs of desperation are everywhere and sometimes literally like this SOS scribbled on the sidewalk.

Most people on the island don't have power or phone service, and food and medicine are running out, especially in more remote hours.

Crime -- well that is another big concern here. Police say 60 people were arrested for violating the overnight curfew from Monday into Tuesday and 36 were arrested for looting and theft.

We want you to look at these images with us. These satellite images show just how devastating the power outages in Puerto Rico really are. The bright one was taken July 24th, well before Hurricane Maria; the other was taken on Monday. You see the difference there on the screen.

It is simply stunning. You can see that most of the island has gone dark.

Well, as you see those pictures, it's not hard to imagine that life has been turned upside down for the more than three million people living in Puerto Rico and many are spending their days searching for food, water and fuel.

CNN's Bill Weir reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Beside a highway in Utuado, this is the most dependable utility in rural Puerto Rico these days. A pipe tapped into a mountain spring is now the watering hole for a community of over 30,000.

It's a natural spring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a natural spring. It's always here.

WEIR: And are you boiling it or you drink it straight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can drink it straight. This is clearer than the water you get from the Department of Water Resources.

WEIR: Ok. Well, that's good. You've got that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is cleaner than that.

WEIR: How is everything else in life? Do you have enough food?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awful. There are people that have a shortage of food. The National Guard is not working up the way it should be. They are all just standing there doing nothing.

No electricity, no water for the city. It's going to take like about maybe six, seven months for anything to happen here.

WEIR: While safe from coastal storm surges, Maria brought hellish mudslides to mountain towns like this, cutting off families for days and forcing desperate decision making. Do you burn precious fuel searching for supplies or stay put and pray for help?

Lydia has two cars with no gas, two grandkids to keep alive on a ration of crackers. With no way to reach that highway pipe, they drink rainwater.

"No water, no food", she tells me. "It's nobody's fault. It's the weather. You have to go on."

So the anxiety, I can tell -- my heart breaks for you.

"What worries me the most is my family doesn't know how we're doing," she says. "We don't have cell phone connection."

On a scale of one to ten, 10 being horrible desperate, where are you?

ERNESTO IRIZARRY, UTUADO MAYOR: Eight.

WEIR: You're an eight.

IRIZARRY: Yes, eight. Eight going "bajando".

WEIR: "Eight and getting better", the young mayor tells me. If the gasoline arrives it will fix our problems because people are starting to get desperate.

Gas is more precious than water up here. National Guard vehicles can't move. Worthless ambulances sit idle. The hospital has one day's worth of generator fuel left and one volunteer doctor because the rest of the staff has no way to get to work.

People starting to turn on each other?

IRIZARRY: Si.

WEIR: "Yes," he says. There's been situations where people are stressed out, crying, folks with dialysis, patients with cancer, veteran patients who need ventilators.

IRIZARRY: Everything you can help with a voice to the outside because I need gasoline and diesel.

WEIR: I will tell. I will tell the world.

The fuel shortage is even more evident in San Juan where lines are miles long.

They open this particular service station at 6:00 in the morning. They and run out of gas by3:00 p.m. So some people at the end of this line may not get the fuel they need.

[00:05:05] The folks here are telling me that a local ring of gangsters called "titere" (ph), drug dealers, actually commandeered a gas station, took over two lanes, just so their guys could get the fuel.

How would you describe the level of desperation?

JANICE TOMAS, GAS STATION MANAGER: To the highest level. And not only here in the metropolitan area but in the center of the island (inaudible) -- is very, very bad. And everybody's suffering. Let's see how we can work it out and begin again.

WEIR: You're putting a big smile on it.

TOMAS: I will always do that, of course.

Weir: And some day after the most primal needs are met, parents will have to figure out how to send their kids back to school and at Wesleyan Academy this is what awaits. There is so much to rebuild and so many now considering leaving this island for good.

What message would you have for folks back in the mainland?

HARRY TORRES, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: Well, we have to keep calm. That's all I can say. Just keep calm because like I said at this point, I told my family this week if we don't see anything getting better, I may have leave the island. I've been here already like 20 years, I may have to leave the island. I don't have any other choice.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WEIR: It was sobering to hear that sentiment more than once. Several people talking about idea that maybe the United States would consider Puerto Rico a liability with a $70 billion plus in debt and now the cost of recovery after Maria that they would have cut it lose.

And the most valuable thing they have right now is their American citizenship so they can get out. But plenty are also vowing to stay and rebuild. But the need is unfathomable. It's hard to overstate just how desperate, just how broken this island is after this historic storm.

And we haven't even gotten into the main concerns about disease -- dengue fever, Zika which could come as mosquitoes breed in the standing water.

The gas stations are expanding -- that's the good news. The governor says it went from about 185 to 450. But distribution is a huge challenge. They don't have enough drivers to bring the fuel into the interior either because they can't get to work or they don't feel safe working without someone riding shotgun -- a cop or a soldier.

But one more day and one more day of perseverance for the people of Puerto Rico.

Back to you.

SESAY: Our thanks to Bill Weir for that. It is just staggering when you take in the scale of the problem.

Well, U.S. President Donald Trump says he will visit Puerto Rico next Tuesday and the island's governor says the Trump administration has responded quickly and appropriately but more help is needed.

Others though are criticizing the President's response and his tweeting about other issues. One Democratic lawmaker warns the crisis could be President Trump's Katrina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ (D), NEW YORK: I don't have time to pay attention to nonsensical tweets. If the President doesn't grasp the severity of this situation this is going to be his legacy. It's going to Puerto Rico, Virgin Island and all these islands, legacy in terms of a humanitarian crisis for the world to see.

This is the most powerful country in the world and this is how we treat our citizens? Shame on us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, despite the crisis in Puerto Rico, much of President Trump's focus over the last few days has been on this feud with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem and that's causing a lot of people to question his priorities.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump appears to be calling a time-out in his fixation on pro football players protesting during the national anthem and turning his attention to more urgent matters like the unfolding disaster in Puerto Rico.

DWTRU, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn't preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place because to me that was a very important moment. I don't think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem.

And to me the NFL situation is a very important situation. I've heard that before about was I preoccupied. Not at all. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work.

ACOSTA: Now the White House is posting photos of the President on the phone with local officials in Puerto Rico and rushing federal officials to the microphones at the White House.

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: This is logistically challenging, very unique event.

TRUMP: People of Puerto Rico --

ACOSTA: The President is patting himself on the back while noting bringing hurricane relief to the U.S. island territory is difficult.

TRUMP: We have had tremendous reviews from government officials. But the governor of Puerto Rico is so thankful for the great job that we're doing. Frankly we're doing -- and it's the most difficult job because it's on the island. It's on an island in the middle of the ocean. It's out in the ocean. You can't just drive your trucks there from other states.

[00:10:03] ACOSTA: But on the ground in Puerto Rico there are still desperate pleas for assistance from island officials -- from the mayor of San Juan --

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: When I say there is a humanitarian crisis -- and I'm sorry. I know that leaders aren't supposed to cry and stuff. Perhaps it's a sign of weakness. Well, you know, the weak out there are waiting for us. We're not getting to everybody in time. People -- especially the elderly are being locked up (ph) in buildings.

ACOSTA: -- to the governor.

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: We need more help. We need more help with resources. We need more help with people being deployed so that we can get logistical support elsewhere.

ACOSTA: Democrats are warning the President help is not coming fast enough.

VELAZQUEZ: If you don't take this crisis seriously, this I going to be your Katrina.

ACOSTA: On social media the President has made it clear where his focus lies -- on the NFL players protesting during football games. He's tweeted about the NFL 24 times since Saturday compared to just four times on Puerto Rico.

At a dinner with conservative leaders at the White House the President seems satisfied with his comments on the NFL telling attendees it's really caught on. It's really caught on. But at a news conference with the prime minister of Spain the President appeared ready to move on with another dire warning to North Korea.

TRUMP: We are totally prepared for the second option -- not a preferred option. But if we take that option it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That's called the military option. If we have to take it we will.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, joining us now: CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea and political analyst Michael Genovese also joins us here in the studio. Welcome to you both.

Paula -- to you first. CNN has learned that North Korea has moved some of its military assets to the eastern coast. What is the current assessment of Pyongyang's military posture there in the region?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha -- we understand that there have been some airplanes, some military assets moved to the east coast.

But we also heard on Tuesday from the intelligence agency here in South Korea through lawmakers that they believe that the flyover, the B-1b bombers that the U.S. sent to the east coast of North Korea last week may have gone unnoticed by North Korea. They may not have picked it up from their radar and may not have known about it until the U.S. told them. So potentially that's why we're seeing that military build-up.

We also know that they are telling North Korean soldiers, along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone that splits North from South Korea to report something if they see an incident first and then take measures second.

That shows that they're aware that there could be some kind of miscalculation or a crash and they are trying to do something to try and prevent that -- Isha.

SESAY: Paula -- stand by for us. Thank you.

Michael -- to you, Paula talks of a certain kind of awareness on the part of the North Koreans -- report first, actions second. President Trump on Tuesday in the rose garden, you know, kind of defended his posture in all of this, saying that he has merely been responding to the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang.

His critics say his words (inaudible) use of their language as they say has created this situation. What part of responsibility does he bear in where we stand today?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Only a part of the responsibility. He's only a part of the problem. The real problem is Kim Jong-Un who is kind of the bad villain in a bad James Bond movie. He's the one who started this. He's the one who's escalating it.

The problem is President Trump responds to that. He takes the bait and he escalates the rhetoric. And there's no point in which both sides will say, let's stop, let's de-escalate.

And so initially I think it was Kim Jong-Un who was responsible. But now, President Trump has gotten involved and he can't seem to find a formula or an avenue to pull back. And this cycle --

SESAY: And you don't see an off-ramp?

GENOVESE: No, there's -- well there are many off-ramps if you want to take them. Neither side right now seems to be anxious to take those off-ramps. And President Trump seems to be trying to prove along with Kim Jong-Un that he's tough. That he's going to be the guy.

And you're playing a game with nuclear weapons. These are two children, spoiled children, poking each other in the eye with a stick and when that stick is nuclear weapons, that can't come out to a good outcome.

SESAY: No, it certainly can't.

Paula -- back to you. On Tuesday, we heard from the parents of Otto Warmbier, the young American who was imprisoned in North Korea and returned home a couple of weeks ago and died shortly thereafter. His mother and father have been speaking about the state he came back in. And also they've had some very pointed direct statements for the regime. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED WARMBIER, FATHER OF OTTO WARMBIER: You're a coward. Your father is a coward. And your grandfather is a coward.

[00:15:02] You are a terrorist. You live in fear. If you're in a room with four other people, you're worried who is going to kill you. I pity you.

CINDY WARMBIER, MOTHER OF OTTO WARMBIER: I would say you took such a good, good person and you'll have to pay for that one day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Paula -- I've got to ask you, how will these statements go over in Pyongyang? I mean the fact is the parents of Otto Warmbier are saying that there is no doubt that their son was tortured. And now, you know, they're making these direct criticisms of Kim Jong-Un. And how is that going to go over?

HANCOCKS: Well Isha -- there's only certain people who actually know what happened to Otto Warmbier and they are all in North Korea. There are certain members of that regime that know exactly what happened.

The family doesn't know. The doctors in the U.S. who treated Otto Warmbier when he returned don't know either. But what we've heard from North Korea as far as they are concerned they did a humanitarian gesture by releasing Otto Warmbier.

They also say that back in June they said that there had been groundless accusations of torture. This was when the parents first spoke out and they said that that was unfound, that it wasn't the case; that the U.S. doctors that have gone to Pyongyang as well to pick up Otto Warmbier agreed that all his vital signs were correct.

Now, of course, we know now that that was not the case. But I would be very surprised if we hear anything from North Korea in reaction to the parents' interviews.

SESAY: All right. Paula -- thank you for that.

Michael, on Tuesday we also learned from the U.S. Treasury Department that new sanctions have been leveled on North Korea taking in North Korean banks and 26 individuals.

Just briefly because we're almost out of time sadly, what's your sense of the implications here and how quickly are those felt or hurt -- those sanctions?

GENOVESE: Sanctions aren't designed to work quickly. They're designed to send a message. And the message is we're going to keep squeezing and squeezing until you cry out for help, until you back down.

And so sanctions are slow moving but they can be effective if you have time and patience. We seem to be running out of time.

SESAY: My thanks to you both. Paula Hancocks there in Seoul, South Korea, and Michael Genovese -- thank you. Very much appreciate the insider perspective.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

We're going to take a very quick break here.

President Trump keeps the feud with those NFL players going with new tweets and new criticism from the White House rose garden. Plus we're going to hear from a sportscaster and Vietnam veteran whose defense of the players' protest is a viral sensation. You will want to hear from him.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Welcome back, everyone.

[00:19:53] Well, The U.S. President Donald Trump seemingly fixated on the issue of football players kneeling on the field after he set off controversy over the national anthem. Once again America's struggling with issues of racism, patriotism, and free speech.

The intersection of politics and the sports world isn't new but this time around it is a little different. The President says he's ashamed of how the athlete are acting.

But many of them are now taking a knee to protest his words. They say they're not disrespecting the national anthem or disrespecting veterans.

The point is this -- one of the great freedoms of this country is the right to show appreciation or dissatisfaction, if you choose, for your government in whichever way you choose. People on both sides have weighed in on this debate.

But a monologue from a Dallas sportscaster and Vietnam veteran, Dale Hansen, has a particularly strong message. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DALE HANSEN, SPORTSCASTER: The young black athletes are not disrespecting America or the military by taking a knee during the anthem. They are respecting the best thing about America. It's a dog whistle to the racists among us to say otherwise.

They and all of us should protest how black Americans are treated in this country. And if you don't think white privilege is a fact you don't understand America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, I'm very pleased to say that Dale Hansen joins us now from Dallas, Texas. Dale -- thank you for being with us. It was a remarkable statement you made and its emotion and raw truth. What made you to this -- what made you decide to speak out in the way you did?

HANSEN: Well, I like to speak out about social issues because I think sports basically is a metaphor for life. But when I heard the President refer to black athletes as SOBs, and he was referring to black athletes, because it's only the black athlete who has taken the knee during the national anthem -- at least so far.

I just do not like anyone deciding who isn't American, who is a patriot. As I said in that commentary last night, my best friend, Carol Meyer (ph) was killed in Vietnam during that immoral war. And I do not accept the fact that anyone decides who is a patriot, who loves America more.

He did not die so that you can decide what patriotism and what loving America means. And because it's such a hot button in America right now I felt I had to speak out and I'm fortunate enough to work for a station, WFAA in Dallas, the techno corporation that quite frankly gives me the opportunity to use the platform I have.

SESAY: Sure. I mean when you hear the President and supporters say this is not about race and he's not being divisive -- well then, this is the President acting out of love for this country. How do you respond directly to that point?

HANSEN: No, I don't accept it at all because again he is singling out the black athlete who is taking the knee. He singled out the Mexicans who try to move to America for a better life. He has singled out the Muslims. He has singled out now the black athlete.

He didn't say a word, he did not say a discouraging word, in fact he told us that they were good people the white men who were marching under the Nazi flag in Charlottesville. And even when he tried to say the right thing a few days later, he doubled down on the fact that there were some good people on that side.

There were white men marching under the Nazi flag and he chose to say that there were some good people and he refers to the black athlete that takes a knee as an SOB who should be taken off the field and fired.

He did not call any of the protesters in Charlottesville under the Nazi flag an SOB. He did not suggest that any of those men should be fired. And it's incredibly offensive.

It's incredibly offensive because despite the fact that so many athlete in America and football players in particular are thrown under this big umbrella of being bad guys, the reality is they're not. They are good, young, hard working men who have worked very hard to improve their craft and make the money they do.

And I was beyond offended -- beyond offended, if it's possible. And I think unfortunately for him, maybe for me as well, who knows, but most of the response that I've gotten since that commentary had been very supportive.

SESAY: You know, it's interesting because, you know, when Colin Kaepernick started his silent, peaceful protests he was very clear that he's not opposing the military, that he loves this country. He's not trying to disrespect anyone -- just trying to draw attention to the police brutality too often suffered by minorities in this country.

Yet many people simply can't or won't accept what Kaepernick has said and they won't afford him the right to love this country and yet call out what is wrong about it. What do you make of that?

HANSEN: Well, again I think it's wrong. I think it's absolutely wrong. I absolutely believe -- and a lot of Americans do -- that one of the best things about this country is you do have the right to protest. You do have the right to call out what's wrong.

Again, I said last night, you know, the constitution of America gives us the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression.

[00:25:02] They listed 10 amendments. Free speech was the first amendment they listed. And the 10 amendments they listed, not one of them said that you have to stand during the national anthem. I think these men have chosen a platform that they have to express the problems that they have.

The flag represents the ideals of America. The flag represents what we all hope that America should be. But the reality is that for too many in America, and black Americans in particular, we have not met that ideal.

As I said, we should protest what has happened to black Americans. And again, I wouldn't kneel, quite frankly, I probably will never kneel during the national anthem but I do think it's the best thing about America that they have the freedom and the opportunity to do so.

SESAY: I was struck -- very, very struck by the statement you made and we played a clip of it so I'll just quote it back. You acknowledged something that not a lot of people feel comfortable acknowledging in public, and that is, you know, white privilege. You say that they and all of us should protest how black Americans are treated in this country. And if you don't think white privilege is a fact you don't understand America.

Well, I mean the data bears that out. The data bears out the disparities between minorities and the experiences in this country. Why is that such a hard thing for so many people to accept and confront?

HANSEN: I honestly don't know. I honestly don't know. If white Americans do not understand that we have been given this privilege because of our genetic makeup, that we have white skin, I don't know how they understand that it makes a difference.

I absolutely believe what Chris Rock, the great comedian said. And I used this quote last night as well. There's not a white man in America who would trade places with him. And he's rich. He's rich.

SESAY: He definitely is.

HANSEN: A friend of mine, a man of color, he used to get stopped in his very nice neighborhood. He's driving home. He's a judge. He drives home in a suit and tie in his Mercedes and was stopped about once a week just to check. Just to check because a black man was driving into this very nice neighborhood, and driving a Mercedes.

I don't get stopped driving home and many times I probably should. But I don't get stopped driving home. The first job I had coming out of the Navy in 1969, a man by the name of Steven Vitch (ph) working for Dial Finance called me and said pleas take this job because if you don't I have to hire an n word.

And I took the job because I was married with baby girl. And I've almost regretted that to this day. But that is the reality of America. We turn down a loan to a black college student who had never missed a payment. And as that man said to me then you didn't tell me that he was the n word and that was the day I quit.

White privilege is rampant in America. And I honestly don't understand how anyone doesn't understand it but unfortunately too many people do.

SESAY: Dale Hansen -- we could keep this conversation going for a very long time.

But let me ask you this final question. The fact of the matter is Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed. He doesn't have a team.

HANSEN: Yes.

SESAY: Nobody is willing to sign him. I mean for all of this conversation that's also a reality. Nobody has taken him on as the season gets under way.

When is it going to be ok in this country to raise the issue of inequality and social injustice? When is this country going to be ready to listen to the pain felt by large segments of its population? When is the right time?

HANSEN: I don't think the right time is going to happen in my lifetime. I absolutely don't.

It's one of the biggest problems that I have dealing with my own life is that when I came out of the Navy, and I was a kid in the 60s. And you know, my generation believed that we were going to change all of the problems.

We were going to stop the unnecessary wars. We were going to feed the homeless. We were going to feed the hungry. We were going to take care of America. We were going to stop the discrimination against our people. And the reality is it's not going to happen in my lifetime.

My concern and my goal right now quite frankly is to make it better for my granddaughter. I want my granddaughter, my children as well, but most importantly for my granddaughter, a special young lady, I want her to have the opportunity to grow up in a better America.

It is better now than it was when I was a kid in the 60s. It's a great deal better now than it was when I was a kid in the 60s. But it's not the world and it's not country that it can be. And I do not understand -- I do not understand why so many people are afraid to simply sit down and discuss the issues on both sides, on both sides.

There was a day in America when we used to be able to agree to disagree. And I do believe we've lost that in America. And we need to get that day back.

[00:30:00] SESAY: Yes. I heartily agree. Pray for a better world as a whole. (INAUDIBLE), thank you so much. Thank you for speaking out and thank you for joining me this evening. Thank you.

HANSEN: Thank you. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.

SESAY: We'll join Anderson Cooper for an "A360" town hall special: "Patriotism: The Players and the President." It will re-air on Thursday at 9:00 pm in Hong Kong. That's 2:00 pm if you're in London. It is only right here on CNN.

A quick break here, very quick and then (INAUDIBLE) president has some big ideas about how to relaunch the European Union. His ambitious agenda is coming up.

Plus breaking up is so, so hard to do. Britain's prime minister wants to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations. The European Council chief says not so fast.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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SESAY: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:

(HEADLINES)

SESAY: French President Emmanuel Macron says the European Union needs to make major changes and he's got the to-do list and quite a list it is. During a 90-minute speech in Paris, he laid out his agenda, including a common defense budget, a single asylum system and an E.U. border force.

He argues the E.U. is still relevant but does need an upgrade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): The Europe that we know is too weak, too slow, too inefficient but only Europe can give us the power to act in a world faced with big contemporary challenges.

Basically only Europe can ensure a real sovereignty. That means our ability to exist in the current world, to defend our values and our interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Macron also suggested the U.K. might want to rejoin the new E.U. in a few years after his plans are pushed through.

Dominic Thomas joins us from Berlin. He's chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA.

Dominic, good to see you, my friend. It was a remarkable speech by Emmanuel Macron. It was big. It was bold and now it's on shaky ground, given Angela Merkel's disappointing showing in the weekend election.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA, CALIFORNIA: Right. It's absolutely remarkable just how much all of this is playing in and organized around Brexit. But Chancellor Merkel that, just a few weeks ago, seemed so stable and such a sure win in this election, now (INAUDIBLE) find herself devoting her attention over the next few months to building a very complex coalition.

Current coalition partner has quite strategically withdrawn, leaving her as with one option, which is to try and work with the three --

[00:35:00]

THOMAS: -- Democrats and with the Greens, who have some very different views on financial integration and on the European Union.

And right after that comes Emmanuel Macron's speech, which he obviously had to rethink very carefully in light of the fact that he is refusing to back down on his support, his unambiguous support for the European Union and a deep awareness of what he was going to say in Paris would also impact negotiations taking place in Germany.

SESAY: And to that point the vision in and of itself is where we get to the inner workings of Merkel trying to build a coalition. As you look at the vision, as we say, it was big; it was bold but can he get this stuff through, even if Merkel was in a position of strength?

It is a remarkable agenda of items to achieve.

THOMAS: Right. And so what we see, really, is throughout the European Union, these deep divides between the kind of vision a country is willing to embrace. And clearly Emmanuel Macron is trying to reassert himself. He's got his own domestic problems on employment laws and other such policies now that the fall is underway and demonstrations sort of defining the day-to-day policymaking. And so going big and bold and international is a way to try and divert attention from that.

Of course, he was very careful to underscore the kinds of things that are both controversial in the European Union, such a developing a common asylum policy, but he also talked about the environment. He talked about educational models that would promote the question of Europe and the importance of multilingualism and all these sorts of questions.

And I think he's deeply aware of the fact that there are divisions to be eased in places like Hungary, that there's concern with the ways in which Brexit negotiations are contaminating decision on Europe.

And certainly things in Germany look to be complicated. One only has to look across the Channel to the United Kingdom to realize that things are a lot worse there when it comes to these kinds of questions.

And they're going to be challenging for him to implement this European renaissance that he's so committed to.

SESAY: Let's stay focused on Brexit in that case. Those negotiations are underway and just received a rather blunt assessment from the European Council president, Donald Tusk. He says there has not be sufficient progress yet. And he made those comments after meeting with the British prime minister, Theresa May. He's referring to these ongoing talks in Brussels.

Dominic, it's been six months since Britain triggered Article 50, kickstarting the negotiation process and since then things have slowed down considerably.

Dominic, why is that?

Why can't Theresa May and her team get their act together at the negotiating table by all accounts?

THOMAS: It's remarkable. There are deep, deep divisions within the Conservative Party. We saw that last week with the whole debacle around besieging Florence and some questions and speculation as to whether or not Florence, Secretary Boris Johnson and would sit down. Theresa May is heading next week to the catannual (ph) (INAUDIBLE) Conservative Party conference and is trying to do her best to demonstrate that there is unity within the Conservative Party.

But the reality is that there is not the one unifying thing they have at the moment, is that they are terrified they will implode and essentially hand power (INAUDIBLE) Labour Party. And the meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has just held the Labour Party conference with a deep refusal and to take an absolutely explicit (ph) position on Brexit, arguing that there are some positive aspects to it, that they're not planning a second referendum.

And I'm told in the Labour Party together is precisely that as well, is they're just waiting, biding their time to see whether or not the Conservative Party will be able to hold it together and push through negotiations.

And the president of the E.U. Council yesterday said that there has not been sufficient advance on the question of some really key issues. There's just a right of E.U. citizens, the Irish border and also the big question, which is very divisive, as to how much the U.K. is going to pay into the European Union to settle its debt and how much it intends to pay going forward if it is granted this two-year extension from 2019 to 2021.

And the E.U. Council leaders, presidents, ministers and so on are meeting in just one month's time. And things are not looking good.

SESAY: It always comes down to money, Dominic, when it comes to these divorces, these separations. Very, very quickly, in terms of this two-year extension, do you think they're going to get it?

THOMAS: Well, the European Union is, in so many ways, (INAUDIBLE). They're tramped (ph) as well. (INAUDIBLE) negotiation, you know, standing tough and just simply goes without fueling the idea that Europe is a deep bureaucratic institution that is inflexible, not willing to work with countries and so on, too.

And yet I think for the U.K. and for Theresa May realizes that it's going to be absolutely impossible for them to --

[00:40:00]

THOMAS: -- put together some kind of concrete plan by 2019. As you just mentioned, we're already over six months out from (INAUDIBLE) latest (INAUDIBLE), well over a year since Brexit vote took place and yet the progress is deeply unsatisfactory at this juncture.

SESAY: Dominic Thomas, we are very satisfied with you. Thank you so much for joining us and giving us some perspective on all this. We always appreciate it. Look forward to seeing you in L.A. soon. Thank you.

Coming up, Saudi Arabia is putting the brakes on a longstanding policy. How this change affects women's rights in the ultra- conservative kingdom. Stay with us.

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SESAY: Hello, everyone.

The ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is reversing course on an important women's rights issue. The Saudi foreign ministry announced Tuesday that the king has decreed that women should be allowed to drive cars.

The government has until next June to implement the change. Until now, some women were fined or jailed if they were caught behind the wheel. One Saudi journalist says the decision is no surprise.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this is historical and a victory, not only for Saudi women but also a victory for human rights. From now on, there is no country which places a ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia was the last country who -- which prevented women from driving.

But I'm not surprised by this because the -- Saudi Arabia now has a young leadership and the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, he's said on many occasions that Saudis should dream big and there is no limits for our ambition (ph).

So now I can see what he means.

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SESAY: This is the latest in a series of changes that ease restrictions on Saudi women, including increasing women's ability to work in education and law, cutting back on the role of religious police who enforce the ban on the mixing of sexes in public places.

And just last week allowing women to enter sports stadiums for the first time for a special pageant.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. Then I'll be back with another hour of news from around the world. You're watching CNN.